Honoring RPJ Client and Executive Director of WriteGirl, Keren Deere Taylor, and Inaugural Poet, Amanda Gordon

On Monday, February 15, we Honor Susan B. Anthony’s Birthday which we also call Leaders Day, by recognizing our dear friend and client, Keren Deere Taylor, founder and Executive Director of the non-profit mentorship program, WriteGirl.  The WriteGirl program uplifts and inspires young girls in their creative writing endeavors through a slate of creative writing workshops, one-on-one mentoring and college readiness programs.  Especially notable, WriteGirl has guided 100% of the high school seniors in its Core Mentoring Program to graduate from high school and enroll in college.

Recently, one outstanding and courageous WriteGirl mentee, Amanda Gorman, presented various of her original poems publicly, elevating the art of poetry to national levels.  Amanda joined the WriteGirl program when she was 14 years old and attended the group’s monthly creative writing workshops throughout her high school years and was matched with volunteers for one-on-one mentoring.  “WriteGirl has been pivotal in my life.  It’s been thanks to their support that I’ve been able to chase my dreams as a writer,” Gorman said in a statement announcing her appearance at Biden’s inauguration.  Amanda is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history and the first poet to perform at the Superbowl.  To learn more about her work and relationshp with Taylor and WriteGirl, read here.  We re-print Amanda’s poems “The Hill We Climb” and “Chorus of the Captains” below as we contemplate Leaders Day and how each of us can gain inspiration from Keren’s actions and Amanda’s words:

The Hill We Climb

When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade.
We’ve braved the belly of the beast,
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,
and the norms and notions
of what just is
isn’t always just-ice.
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken,
but simply unfinished.
We the successors of a country and a time
where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one.
And yes we are far from polished.
Far from pristine.
But that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge a union with purpose,
to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man.
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us,
but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true,
that even as we grieved, we grew,
that even as we hurt, we hoped,
that even as we tired, we tried,
that we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat,
but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time,
then victory won’t lie in the blade.
But in all the bridges we’ve made,
that is the promise to glade,
the hill we climb.
If only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth,
in this faith we trust.
For while we have our eyes on the future,
history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption
we feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter.
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?
Now we assert,
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was,
but move to what shall be.
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free.
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation,
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain,
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy,
and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west.
We will rise from the windswept northeast,
where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states.
We will rise from the sunbaked south.
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover.
And every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful.
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid,
the new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

The Chorus of the Captains  

Today we honor our three captains
For their actions and impact in
A time of uncertainty and need.
They’ve taken the lead,
Exceeding all expectations and limitations,
Uplifting their communities and neighbors
As leaders, healers, and educators.
James has felt the wounds of warfare,
But this warrior still shares
His home with at-risk kids.
During Covid, he’s even lent a hand
Love-streaming football for family and fans.
Trimaine is an educator who worlds nonstop,
Providing his community with hotspots,
Laptops, and tech workshops
So his students have all the tools
They need to succeed in life and in school.
Suzie is the ICU nurse manager at a Tampa Hospital.
Her chronicles prove that even in tragedy, hope is possible.
She lost her grandmothers to the pandemic,
And fights to save other lives in the ICU battle zone,
Defining the frontline heroes risking their lives for our own.
Let us walk with these warriors,
Charge on with these champions,
And carry forth the call of our captains!
We celebrate them by acting with courage and compassion,
By doing what is right and just.
For while we honor them today
It is they who every day honor us.

We thank Keren for her important work in uplifting and supporting young girls’ creativity, which is something we strongly believe in and support at RPJ, and Amanda for your extraordinary courage, grace and contributions in these most challenging times.

To learn more about WriteGirl, click here.